Baby Adventures: The Secret Note - Part Three
Treaphie's heart raced. She could feel each beat pounding against her chest as she rushed down the staircase. The shrill scream was one filled with pure horror... she couldn't bear to even imagine it.
By the time she reached the bottom, it had been a full ten seconds since the scream had pierced the air. She dodged behind a column and swept the room with her wide lavender eyes.
There was Kolyae, his sea-green eyes looking on the verge of tears, staring at his little sister, Kasthie. And Kasthie... oh, no. She was being grasped tightly around both of her skinny little wrists. An Orange Blumaroo was the culprit. He wore a cloak that looked like night without stars, a black so deep that no light could make it bright.
He smiled, displaying two pointy fangs.
Kasthie was terrified. She had never known real danger until she had looked into those solid black eyes. So menacing, so horrible, so cruel... she felt like she was about to faint. Now his smile was growing, until she realized what was happening. He was opening his mouth, those two fangs sticking out like prongs in a fork. He was leaning forward.
Kasthie knew it was the last thing she would ever see.
The Blumaroo staggered backward, dropping Kasthie. The little Korbat fell to the floor and lay in a heap, unmoving.
Treaphie had hurled her Lollypop Stencil - what she had considered so useless at the School Supplies Shop earlier that day - at the villain. She watched in satisfaction as the villain was temporarily stopped, then tried to race over to her sister.
Though the Orange Blumaroo looked shocked at first, a few seconds later he laughed and easily grabbed Treaphie. "You fools," he rumbled, his voice increasing in volume with every word, "Don't you realize that you cannot beat one who is neither living nor dead?"
Treaphie looked confused. "Um, what was that? I don't believe I heard correctly-"
"Bah!" The Blumaroo swatted the air with his free hand as if a Moquot had been fluttering there. "Just give up. You'll never make it out of here. Not before becoming what I am!"
Maybe it was Kolyae's imagination, but the underground room seemed to shake with his words. He wondered if that was how earthquakes formed.
"You." Treaphie stared hard, as if concentrating. "Who are you?"
"As if it matters!" he cackled. "You will know for yourselves after I'm done with you!"
He dragged her towards her sister. He stared at them both for a moment, musing. "I'll deal with you first," he decided quickly, looking at Treaphie. He smiled cruelly at Kolyae, who gulped. The Blumaroo move swiftly towards the doorway. He had blocked the pathway.
Surprisingly, this didn't change Kolyae's plans. As if he would leave without his sisters! It took all his willpower not to laugh out loud in front of the villain. But he still was not sure what to do. His sisters... what would happen to them?
He fumbled around in his backpack for something - anything. His hands clasped around something mushy and disgusting.
Garlic Mashed Potatoes.
Kolyae's eyebrows hardened as he watched the Blumaroo. That guy certainly deserved no less than this squishy bowl of mush! With all his might, he thrust it forward. It hit the Blumaroo square in the face.
Kolyae closed his eyes tightly. He expected the Blumaroo to get angry, but surprisingly, the cloaked villain staggered backward. The Blumaroo looked as though the Garlic Mashed Potatoes on his face were burning-hot coals. His eyes filled with horror. "No, no!" He gasped for air.
The Baby Chomby was not at all sure what was going on, but he wasted no time. He lunged forward, his mind not able to process all that was happening. The Chomby grabbed Kasthie carefully, who was still limp on the ground. He slung her over his shoulder as he and Treaphie raced ahead. The Blumaroo was recovering and surged forward, determined not to lose his prey. Treaphie had apparently caught on, for she stopped, retrieved the bowl of Garlic Mashed Potatoes from her own bag, and thrust it down towards the Blumaroo. He lurched backwards and hissed. Though the Blumaroo recoiled for a moment longer, he advanced, significantly weakened, but still strong.
Both Kolyae and Treaphie were now out of Garlic Mashed Potatoes. Kasthie's backpack still had potatoes, but they couldn't afford to open it. It would take too much time since they were carrying their own sacks. Also, the Blumaroo was gaining. He was hopping the steps two at a time, whilst the babies could barely manage going up one. At last, the door appeared overhead. Treaphie lifted the latch and smiled at the fresh daylight pouring in.
An anguished cry from below shattered the peace. As she turned, she saw a horrendous sight - the Blumaroo's face looked as if it were melting, and his skin turned a sickly shade. He leaped down the stairs to get to the bottom and to the darkness as quickly as possible. Soon he had disappeared in the gloom.
Kolyae trudged up the last remaining steps before sealing the trapdoor shut. He looked as though he were starting to realize the events of the last five minutes, his face becoming more and more pale. Treaphie gently took Kasthie from him and set her down. She looked pasty and worn, but not a single scratch was on her.
"She's all right," Treaphie breathed a sigh of relief, "I think she must have passed out from fright. Where are the Healing Potions?"
As Kolyae rummaged through the sack, Treaphie continued talking. "Imagine! Of all the neopets to run into on Roo Island - him? Oh, that terrible beast-"
"I wish we knew more about him." Kolyae handed a glass bottle from Kasthie's Kadoatie Backpack to Treaphie. Treaphie uncapped the cork.
"And anyway," she told Kolyae, "I do know about him. I didn't know at first, but when we threw the Garlic Mashed Potatoes... it triggered something in my memory. I heard Toupahz talking about him when she was discussing the legends of Roo Island with our owner." She poured the blue fluid within the bottle into the little Korbat's mouth. At first, nothing happened. Then Kasthie's pretty black eyes fluttered open, and she gasped.
"Kasthie!" Treaphie gave her a quick hug. "Oh, I'm so glad you're okay!"
"What happened?" She coughed. Her cheeks returned to normal, but they paled with realization. "What... happened?" she repeated, more uncertainly this time.
"Yeah, and Treaphie, what do you know about him?" Kolyae questioned.
"Y-You know who that was?" Kasthie looked sick with worry. Her eyes kept darting toward the trapdoor not far from them, still open. It stuck out like an ugly ship in the middle of a beautiful lake.
"Don't worry, he's not coming out. Couldn't you tell? It was Count Von Roo." The name sent shivers down their spines.
"What do you know about him?" Kolyae asked.
Treaphie brushed a tuft of soft pink fur from her forehead. "He's a vampire. He lives in a dark den under the ground because the sunlight is what destroys him. He's also afraid of garlic. But what he said about not being alive nor dead... it's like how zombies are, really. If he bites you, you turn into a vampire. He's the only main danger on this island... I can't believe I forgot..."
"Hey, you were as captivated as we were." Kolyae shrugged. "It's understandable."
Treaphie frowned. "That doesn't make it okay. We were in danger. I didn't stop you."
"You tried," Kasthie pointed out. "It's Kolyae and I who should be apologizing to you. We led you there. I'm so sorry." Kasthie looked down at her feet.
They seemed to have reached a silent agreement to get moving. Nobody was tempted to go off path anymore. They trotted along side-by-side, feeling rather glum as they passed every marvel the Island had to offer. At long last, the palace was within sight, and even the three depressed babies couldn't help but be impressed.
It was so tall that Treaphie saw clouds before she saw the top of the palace. It was simplistic - modeled in the shape of a Blue Blumaroo - yet even more impressive because of that. The massive structure looked inviting and friendly, but also highly guarded.
At least a dozen guards loomed about at the base of the palace. Treaphie smiled easily at her friends and trotted up to the first guard she saw - a burly Purple Blumaroo.
"Hello," she babbled sweetly. "May I go in pretty palace?"
"No," he answered gruffly. "The King is very busy."
Treaphie sighed. "But... when can I come in?"
He grunted and pointed beside him to a wooden bulletin board with bubble letters spelling out 'Roo Island - Information by the Day!' Kolyae and Kasthie joined the Usul at the board, all of them scanning the headlines.
"Look!" Treaphie pointed excitedly at the closest paper. It read, 'Day 16, The Month of Sleeping: Dice-A-Roo sign-ups. You must prove your skills to the guards before signing up! Sign-ups will take place in the palace and will be personally handled by King Roo.'
Kolyae sighed. "Let's face it- we've never even played Dice-A-Roo before. There's no way we can prove ourselves to those guys."
A mischievous smile snuck on Treaphie's face, which always meant trouble. "Or can we?" she said slyly.
Kasthie looked startled. "You mean... you've played before? You can get us in?" She began jumping up and down now in excitement.
"Um... no." Treaphie admitted. "But I do know how to play! You roll a die and depending what it lands on, different things can happen. It also depends on which color die you roll. You always start with red, then blue, then green, then yellow, and then silver. You could get a present, go up a level to a different colored die, gain neopoints, lose neopoints, nothing could happen, or..." her face darkened. "You could lose."
Kasthie frowned. "Just like that? One unlucky roll and the game's over?"
Treaphie nodded seriously.
Kolyae pondered for a moment. "So then... it's all luck?" he asked her. "No practice is needed?"
"Well, that's what the logical explanation would be," Treaphie explained, "but these Roo Islanders find it an important part of their culture. They consider it as skill-based as the Altador Cup."
"Rolling dice? But... that's as unpredictable as it gets!" Kolyae complained. "How do we definitely get in?"
"We could definitely improve our chances by going separately," Kasthie suggested.
"Besides, we have a fifty-fifty chance of something good happening," Kolyae piped up.
"Uh, guys?" Treaphie interrupted. "Have you not noticed my mischievous expression? I have a plan, you know."
Kolyae and Kasthie exchanged nervous glances with each other. "Will this plan involve weapons, breaking laws, or stealing money?" Kasthie asked skeptically.
"None of the above," Treaphie promised. "Now, do you want to help me or not?"
Kolyae studied her for a moment before making his decision. "Okay," he said against his better judgement.
"I suppose we can do it," Kasthie hesitantly agreed, "Considering it doesn't sound too... cruel to others."
"What do you need?" Kolyae inquired.
"Go to the Souvenir Shop nearby and get me two dice, please," Treaphie told him. "Two red dice and a pair of scissors. And some glue. Bring them back as soon as you can!"
As the Chomby disappeared, Kasthie's face turned to one of realization and she did a facepalm. "This plan will involve tricking people, won't it?"
Treaphie grinned. "Oh, yeah," she agreed.
Kasthie sighed. "Well..." she said slowly, remembering how she had already agreed, "it's... for a good cause..."
"That's the spirit!" exclaimed Treaphie, giving her a pat on the back. "I'm turning you into a good ol' rebel, aren't I?"
Kasthie gave a weak grin at this.
It wasn't too long before Kolyae returned, a shopping bag swinging on his arm. "That place is so overpriced!" he fumed. "I guess it's dice season or something, though, because it was so crowded in there! Good thing I was small enough to squeeze through the crowds."
Treaphie thanked him, fetched the supplies from the shopping bag, and pulled out the White Faellie from her backpack. "Hold onto her, please," she instructed Kasthie. The Korbat looked very pleased and began stroking the soft white fur of the now purring Faellie.
Treaphie set to work. She ripped out pages of her Yellow Lined Notebook and pulled out her Earth Faerie Pen, which was still glinting in the light of the rapidly setting sun.
Treaphie ripped three pieces of paper into four pieces each. She drew the triangle, a symbol that represented moving up a level in the game of Dice-A-Roo, on each of the pieces.
"Kolyae, your Ketchup Bottle Pen, please," she instructed. Kolyae handed it to her.
Treaphie began cutting the symbols out carefully, coloring any visible notebook paper red with the Ketchup Bottle Pen, and gluing the paper over the symbols already on the dice. Kolyae and Kasthie watched curiously.
"There," said Treaphie proudly, obviously satisfied with her work. The Usul looked over her two dice now. Every side of each of them had the 'level-up' sign on it. She stuffed her supplies back into her backpack and put the dice into it. Then she handed Kolyae the Ketchup Bottle Pen back. "Come on!"
And so the three set off, Kasthie still clutching the White Faellie, who seemed quite comfortable.
They trotted right back up to the Purple Blumaroo, who grunted as he saw them.
"I wish to enter the Dice-A-Roo Tournament," Treaphie told him sweetly.
"You must prove yourself," responded the guard in a harsh tone.
"Oh, you mean I just roll these dice for you?" asked Treaphie innocently, removing the dice from her backpack.
"Yes," barked the guard.
Treaphie shrugged. "Okay," she agreed, smiling. She noticed a table next to the guard and rolled both dice. They both landed with the triangle face-up. If it had been a real Dice-A-Roo game, Treaphie would have gone up two levels.
The guard looked mildly impressed. "Do it again," he insisted.
Treaphie collected the dice and thrust them into the air once more. Again, they both landed with the triangle facing the sky.
Now the guard looked exhilarated. "That was the most impressive dice-tossing I've ever seen!" he sputtered, bowing to her. "You may sign up now. I truly hope to see you in the tournament."
Treaphie smiled wider and strutted confidently forward. Kolyae and Kasthie trotted behind her, but the guard snarled, "Oh, no, these two cannot accompany you."
"What? Why not?" Treaphie asked, an edge in her voice now.
"They might try to sign up, too. I am only to allow entrance to the one who performs the dice-throwing."
"I need them," Treaphie insisted. "They... er... they need to be with me at all times," she said lamely.
"Then you cannot enter either," the guard roared.
"I thought you said I just displayed, and I quote, 'the most impressive dice-throwing' you have ever seen?" Treaphie confirmed, blinking at the guard.
The Blumaroo sighed. "Very well, then," he told her curtly, "but if I dare see either of these two at the Dice-A-Roo Tournament, you'll be very sorry."
"I understand," Treaphie replied, nodding her head knowledgeably. "Come on," she told the other two and they followed her, more hesitantly this time, into the castle.
The place was large, but quite empty. Against the far wall, aligned with the center of the room, was a throne with golden edges. It was covered with a deep-blue velvet cushion. Seated upon this was a bright Blue Blumaroo with a golden crown on his head and a scarlet cape hanging down his back. He looked carefree and very eager. When he saw the three babies enter the otherwise deserted room, he cried out, "Young contenders! Please, sign up over here!"
Treaphie rushed forward, and the others had a hard time catching up to her. She came to an abrupt halt directly in front of the throne and bowed. Then she looked up, her wide, violet eyes shimmering, and exclaimed, "King Roo! We have very important information for you --"
"Name please," King Roo told them formally, propping up his clipboard in front of his long nose with a long black pen poised in his right hand.
Treaphie blinked, startled. "Er..." she began uncertainly, wondering if he had even heard her. "Your Majesty, we aren't signing up for the Dice-A-Roo Tournament. I need to tell you that Neopia is in danger, and that--"
"You're not signing up?" King Roo asked, looking taken aback.
"No, Your Majesty," Treaphie responded, "But --"
"Oh." King Roo's face fell, but he quickly had a jaunty smile plastered on it once again. "Next!"
"Wait!" Kasthie cried. "We have news for you!"
King Roo brightened. "Is it about Dice-A-Roo?" he asked excitedly.
"Forget the Dice-A-Roo for one moment!" sputtered Kolyae, enraged at the King's overly-jovial manner. Kasthie and Treaphie stared at him, horror etched on their faces at the way they addressed the King. King Roo, meanwhile, merely glanced at him with mild interest. The Chomby continued, "This is something that's going to affect all of Neopia, and if you can't see that... then... then Neopia's downfall is all your fault!"
King Roo studied Kolyae. "What is this danger?" he asked quietly, the smile wiped from his face.
Treaphie cleared her throat and answered for her brother. "We are unaware of the details, but this parchment" - she thrust it forward, and King Roo picked it up and examined it - "was found, and it clearly states that royalty from all the different Neopian lands must be present at Faerieland by the end of tomorrow. That includes you, King Roo."
He frowned, reading and re-reading the paper. Then he bit his lip. "This sounds quite extreme..." he muttered. "No one's ever asked our island for help before. We're rather underestimated." He handed the paper back to Treaphie feebly. She put it back in her sack.
"Really?" Kasthie asked. "But this is the most lovely place I've ever seen!"
"Oh, it wasn't always this way," King Roo said gravely, and for the first time, his face darkened. "Years and years ago - many, many centuries - this island was ruled over by a tyrant. He came from the Haunted Woods. This tyrant was a cruel vampire named Dijakal. The Blumaroos had all been living happily before he arrived, but after he came, he enslaved them."
"How terrible!" Kasthie cried, her little hands flying up to her agape mouth.
"Then all of the Blumaroos were forced into a long period of agony and work," King Roo continued. "There was not a smile to be seen all over the island, except in this richly decorated palace. It was filled with more gold, jewels, and riches than you could imagine - they were literally flooding the castle! No one else was permitted more than a potato sack, and all homes were confiscated and demolished to make room for more storage areas of gold.
"The Blumaroos couldn't take it any longer. They were tormented every day, but afraid to stop for fear of being bitten by Dijakal and becoming vampires themselves. However, they couldn't live like this. My great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather, Jolsee, led the revolt group, which consisted of just about every Blumaroo on the island. They used their wisdom to get him off the island by formulating a plan, which began one bright, sunny day. A Yellow Blumaroo alerted Dijakal that an enemy was advancing. He told him it was another land trying to conquer them to steal all the gold. Dijakal immediately had assembled all the Blumaroos he could find and dressed them in silver armor. He gave them all spears and led them to the water's edge. They stood there, waiting, Dijakal standing confidently at the very front. Then, Jolsee rang the large bell on top of the palace. It was the signal. All the Blumaroos turned their spears on Dijakal as one. He had no choice but to get into the water and swim for his life, the Blumaroos filing into rowboats and following in close pursuit.
"They realized, after they had chased him a considerable distance away, that having a leader was not good at all. They abandoned the system entirely. However, these once-peaceful Blumaroos had now learned the secret to gaining power - they had seen and felt the torture, and they knew they could use it to their advantage. Every Blumaroo was at war with one another. Finally, Jolsee declared that they did need a leader, but a peaceful one. They needed someone that didn't make changes unless they were necessary. Many admitted that they felt Jolsee should be leader, as he had freed them from Dijakal. Soon more and more felt this way, and Jolsee became the King.
"That is why," he concluded, "I live so simply in my palace. The Blumaroos didn't want to demolish this beautiful structure, however horrible a past it contained. All my predecessors up to Jolsee have lived here humbly, not getting too involved in the personal affairs of citizens, but merely keeping things the way they are and stopping trouble if it ever arises."
"I don't believe it," Treaphie said slowly. "I've never heard of anything like that happening in Roo Island before. Is this past well-known?"
"Oh, no, not at all!" said the King. "The Blumaroos don't like to recall it, you see. It is a Blumaroo secret. You three are, obviously, the exception now."
Treaphie beamed. Kolyae, however, looked skeptically at King Roo and told him, "Trouble is arising, Your Majesty."
"Well, yes, I know that now," said King Roo smoothly. "I shall do as this parchment instructs and head over to Faerieland."
"No, no," said Kolyae, his brow furrowed, "I'm not talking about that - I'm talking about someone residing on your island."
King Roo frowned. "And who would that be?"
"Count Von Roo, sir," Kolyae told him.
King Roo sighed. "Ah, yes, the only source of dismay on our beautiful island. I must admit, he has been here for some time. You see, Dijakal had been among the Blumaroos for so long that he unknowingly became quite like them. Years after he took over, he had a son, and he was - to his shock - a Blumaroo! Dijakal thought this was an insult and abandoned the child immediately. The Blumaroos felt a bit of pity for him, for, even though his father was the cruel vampire tyrant, the young child hadn't done anything wrong. They also thought it unfair to banish someone just because they were a Blumaroo. His son felt resentment towards Dijakal for abandoning him, but also towards the Blumaroos themselves, though they had done no wrong to him."
"Why?" asked Kasthie, lip quivering.
"Because," King Roo said seriously, "he was given up by his dad for the reason that he was a Blumaroo. He felt now that being a Blumaroo made you a bad person. So he found that he greatly disliked all Blumaroos. He, too, was a vampire, as his father had been. But he didn't threaten others. No, he remained in the home he built for himself underground. Count Von Roo is his descendant. Unfortunately, no one has been able to get him off of the island."
"We ran into him," sighed Kolyae. Kasthie shuddered at the memory.
King Roo looked very somber at this news. "Do you think," he said slowly, "that perhaps I'm the reason we're having this meeting in Faerieland? To get rid of Count Von Roo?"
"I doubt it," said Treaphie. "This is something that's gonna affect all of Neopia, not just one vampire attacking a victim or two."
King Roo looked relieved. "Well, thank you very much for alerting me of this meeting, all of you."
Treaphie bowed, and the other two copied her. "You're welcome, Your Majesty," said Treaphie, a serious expression on her adorable face.
King Roo pondered for a moment. "It is very late," he finally said. "And travel at night is dangerous indeed. I ask that you stay in my kingdom for the night. We have a lot of rooms with beds in them, and though they are simple, I am certain you would be comfortable."
Treaphie was about to decline the offer, but as she opened her mouth to respond, a yawn came out instead of words. She looked over at the others. They seemed quite tired, too.
"We have till 5 o'clock tomorrow," Kolyae said, stifling a yawn himself.
"And what use are we if we're so tired?" Kasthie asked, her eyes fluttering closed. "We'd probably fall asleep anyway!"
Treaphie knew that it was true - they needed sleep. What better place to get a nap than a bedroom in a kingdom? Besides, it was so close by... they could sleep right away...
"Sounds great," Treaphie said. "Thank you, Your Majesty."
"Not a problem," said King Roo, smiling. "There is a room with three beds in it very close by. Just go through that doorway, then through the one on your left."
The babies thanked him and shuffled to the bedroom. They saw three beds that looked pretty comfortable, though not very regal, all lined up next to each other. Treaphie climbed into one, while Kolyae and Kasthie clambered in on either side of her.
On Treaphie's left, Kasthie whispered, "Treaphie, do you think we'll make it? Do you think we're going to succeed?"
"Of course," said Treaphie sleepily. "Just close your eyes..." She had intended to say "and go to sleep" after that, but she fell asleep before she could finish her sentence.
The babies woke up at around 10 am the next morning. Well, Kolyae did, and he woke the others with his shouts.
"Seven hours! We have only seven hours left!" he hollered.
"What?" Kasthie cried. "How long have we been asleep?"
"A long time!" Kolyae answered sadly. "We're doomed, we're doomed, we're doomed--"
"Hey, hey!" Treaphie interrupted hastily. "You guys can't give up hope like that! But you're right - we have to depart at once. And we better not mess around!" The babies grabbed their backpacks and raced out the door. They went through another door and then stumbled into the main room of King Roo's palace.
King Roo was sitting on his throne, smiling pleasantly as he saw them.
"Sir, we need to leave now. We thank you graciously for all you have done," said Treaphie courteously with a bow.
"Of course, of course, I completely understand. I can offer you three further assistance before you leave..." King Roo began, clearing his throat. "Such as, perhaps, food, travel, or supplies."
"We will be journeying to Faerieland next to investigate," Treaphie explained. "We don't know how to get there, though."
"Ah," said King Roo. "Well, feel free to go to the docks. Unis come down from Faerieland there to let off passengers and bring others up. Their fee is a little pricy, but I will supply you with money for the travel," King Roo promised. He opened a little bag filled with golden neopoints that was lying at the foot of the throne. Then he removed a small handful and placed them into Treaphie's cupped hands.
"Thank you," Treaphie told him happily, bowing again.
"You are most welcome," said King Roo joyfully. "Would you like to join us for a morning feast? I say it's time for a celebration, and our feasts have the most delightful food!"
"That is very kind of you," Treaphie told him, ignoring the drooling mouths of her brother and sister, "but we are very pressed for time and must be departing immediately."
"I see," King Roo replied promptly. He was smiling again like his usual self, the recollections of the island's horrible history obviously gone from his mind. "Then let me prepare food for you to pack for your journey back." He called out, "I wish to supply these good pets with food!" Immediately, a chef came through the swinging door. Treaphie saw in the split second it was open that the room beyond was very plain; it had bare walls, ceiling, and floor, and the furniture was very simplistic. The room was practically empty.
King Roo caught her staring and said quickly, "This here is a very famous Roo Island chef. He needed kitchens to work in, so I allowed him to use that room right there. I also gave him a nice, cozy bedroom next to the kitchen. I pay him for his services."
Their bags were soon stuffed, and after each baby had gratefully said, "Thank you!", they departed.
No sooner had they left the palace, struggling under the weight of their heavy bags, and reached the docks, then they saw a very familiar Faerie Meerca standing in front of them. She looked relieved to see them, but extremely angry about their disappearance.
"So," Toupahz, the babies' sister, huffed, crossing her arms. "Where have you been?"
To be continued...